World leaders on Monday condemned the assassination of Guinea-Bissau President Joao Bernado Vieira and urged the West African country to maintain constitutional order.
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general strongly condemned the killing, which occurred "soon after successful legislative elections which paved the way for enhanced UN support to the country's peace building efforts," UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York.
Ban, who is currently on a tour in Africa, called on authorities in Guinea-Bissau to "maintain constitutional order and respect for the rule of law at this critical moment."
Guinea-Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira was fatally shot early Monday by soldiers apparently in retaliation for a bomb attack the day before that killed Gen. Batista Tagme na Wai, his long-time political rival and military chief.
Meanwhile, the United States "strongly condemned the violence," and "called for calm and for all parties in Guinea-Bissau to respect the rule of law and follow the established constitutional order regarding succession," U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement.
The European Union (EU) also criticized the assassination, saying that "these attacks come at a time of increased EU and international engagement intended to build a democratic and stable Guinea Bissau."
The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a statement that "the EU urges all the political and military authorities to... exercise maximum restraint in order to enable a return to stability and the democratic process,"
At the same time, the African Union (AU) condemned the assassination "in the strongest terms," describing the attacks as cowardly and heinous.
AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping in a statement called on Guinea-Bissau's political leaders "to rally behind the legitimate authorities of the country in order to address the current crisis within the framework of the legitimate institutions and the constitution of Guinea-Bissau."
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also denounced the violence.
"The murder of the president and chief of defense staff are condemned in the strongest of terms as reprehensible acts that undermine democracy, peace and stability in Guinea-Bissau," ECOWAS chairman Alhaji Umar Musa Yar'Adua said in a statement.
Yar'Adua emphasized the importance of constitutional succession to the presidency. He called on the army and other security agencies to avoid any actions that would plunge the country further into lawlessness and political instability.
The ECOWAS would dispatch a foreign ministerial delegation to Bissau on Tuesday in an effort to restore confidence among the political groups, civil society and security services and bring the country back to constitutional normalcy, the statement said.
Meanwhile, Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva criticized the violence, saying "we cannot remain silent after this assault to a developing democracy, which had only begun to form. We cannot accept this sort of behavior."
Criticism also came from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), which described the event as "shameful."
"We must regret this situation, to strongly condemn the facts and to expect that despite the gravity of the situation, it is possible to democratically respect the internal order and the established institutions," said Domingo Simoes Pereira, executive secretary of the CPLP.
Portuguese President Cavaco Silva sent a condolence message to Raimundo Pereira, parliament chief of Guinea-Bissau, in which he condemned the attacks.
"We strongly repudiate those attacks, as well as all the acts that seek to alter with force and violence the constitutional order and the normal functioning of the elected democratic institutions," Silva said.
Guinea-Bissau, one of the world's poorest countries, has a history of coups. The former Portuguese colony is known as a transit point for South American cocaine shipments bound for Europe.